The Missing Link in School Reform

"In Waiting for Superman, the 2010 documentary that describes the failure of American public education, several children and their families, along with educators like Geoffrey Canada and philanthropists like Bill Gates, drive home the argument that the key to school reform lies in improving the competence and skills of individual teachers. ...

"To be clear: I am not opposed to recognizing the contributions of outstanding teachers or to holding bad teachers accountable for poor performance. But I believe in the power of objective data. The results of our research challenge the prevailing centrality of the individual teacher and principal leadership in models of effective public education. Instead, the results provide much support for the centrality of social capital—the relationships among teachers—for improving public schools. (See “How to Reform Public Schools” on opposite page.) Our results suggest that we need to broaden the focus on teacher human capital to an approach that supports both human and social capital development for teachers. ..." <Read more>

After the Chicago teachers' strike, WBEZ, aired a story on the teachers' social capital increased while they were on the picket lines. Click here to listen to or read the story.

First published in the Stanford Innovation Review in fall 2011 and available online at